The kokum is native to the western coastal regions of southern India and is rarely seen beyond this area. Even in India it is used only in the regional cuisines of Gujarat, Maharashtra and several southern states where large glasses of kokum Guice) sherbet are downed during parched summer months. In this region the sweltering heat demands refrigerant (cooling) ingredients in food and drink. Kokum is well known to counteract the heat.
Kokum is a dark purple to black, sticky and with curled edges fruit. It is often halved, and dried seeds are visible in their chambers like a citrus fruit. It is usually available as a dried rind, resembling a thick plum skin. When added to food it imparts a pink to purple colour and sweet/sour taste.
Preparation and Storage:
Similar to tamarind, kokum skins are usually available as dried rind or fruit, and infused in hot water. The deeper the colour the better the kokum.
Attributed Medicinal Properties:
It is useful as an infusion, or by direct application, in skin ailments such as rashes caused by allergies. Kokum butter is an emollient helpful in the treatment of burns, scalds and chaffed skin. The fruits are steeped in sugar syrup to make amrutkokum which is drink to relieve sunstroke.
Dried kokum fruit rinds are widely used in cooking as they impart a sweetish-tangy flavor to the food. The fruits contain citric acid, acetic acid, malic acid, ascorbic acid, hydroxycitric acid and garcinol.
Medicinal Properties and Application:
Kokum fruits contain rich amounts of anti-oxidants that bind with free redicals and prevent oxidative damage to body cells. They also promote cell regeneration and repair. Extracts from the Kokum fruit are traditionally used to relieve gastric problems like acidity, flatulence, constipation and indigestion. Kokum juice is a healthier and far more refreshing option as compared to commercial bottled drinks. It acts as an appetite stimulant and also has antihelminti properties. The hydroxycitric acid present in the fruit fights cholesterol and curbs lipogenesis, thus aiding weight loss.
Availability and Use:
Dried kokum is easily available at most Indian food stores. The rinds may be soaked in hot water for a few hours to extract the juice which may be mixed with spices and consumed directly. Alternatively, you could add a few pieces of the dried rind to curries and gravies as a substitute for other souring agents like tamarind, vinegar and lemon juice.